Ad Praefectum Erreram Feruntur Munera (Cumanagoto Woman Offers Fruit to Pedro Herrera)
- Theodor de Bry, Belgian, 1528-1598
- Work Locations: Germany
Theodor de Bry, Ad Praefectum Erreram Feruntur Munera (Cumanagoto Woman Offers Fruit to Pedro Herrera), 1594. Engraving; 13 x 9 in. Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 2000.374.
During his travels in Venezuela in 1541, Girolamo Benzoni recorded an encounter that between Pedro de Herrera, governor of the island of Margarita, and a local Cumanagoto woman. The woman approached the governor’s house bearing a basket of local fruits, and then silently took a seat on a bench. Benzoni was astonished by her appearance, as she was nearly nude, save for a loincloth, and her skin was painted with black pigment. Her nails and hair were long, her teeth were black, and she wore wooden earrings that stretched her ears and a ring in her nose. Benzoni was quite scandalized by her immodesty and adornment, describing her as “more like a monster than a human being.”
This engraving appeared in the fourth volume of Theodor de Bry’s America (1594). De Bry loosely based the composition on a woodcut included in in Benzoni’s Historia del mondo nuovo (History of the New World, 1565), but has made the Cumanagoto woman significantly more haggard. The woman is shown both at right, approaching the house with the basket on her head, and seated on a bench inside, where she is a spectacle for the onlooking soldiers. The gift offered by the woman is seemingly overlooked in place of her monstrous appearance.
– Kathryn Santner, Frederick and Jan Mayer Fellow of Spanish Colonial Art, 2022